Monday, 2 May 2016

INDEPENDENT? Run that by me again!

CROSSBENCHER on the confusing world of Borders "politics"

So how do all of those SNP, Labour and Lib Dem supporters who voted for Councillor Michael Cook at the last Scottish Borders Council elections feel after reading his letter in last Thursday's local press?

Mr Cook, you see, camouflaged himself with an Independent ticket in the East Berwickshire ward at the 2012 polls, leading the electorate to believe he was a non-political animal, keen to keep Party dogma out of municipal business.

But now we discover the former deputy leader of the council, and a high heid-yin in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities [COSLA] to boot, will give his two votes to the Tories at the parliamentary elections this Thursday, casting his Independent credentials [conveniently and no doubt temporarily] aside.

As an elector, Mr. Cook is free to vote for whoever he likes. But having chosen to stand under an Independent banner at council level he would have been well advised to keep his true colours under the bed, in the closet, or wherever he chooses to conceal them.

Before proceeding further it might be helpful to explain the political set-up at SBC where the member for East Berwickshire is an influential member of the unholy Rainbow Alliance which is tasked with the responsibility of delivering essential local services.

Mr Cook's Independent Party - a screaming oxymoron if ever there was one - did not have a majority of seats post-election so Group members invited the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrat councillors to join them and take power. That left the Conservatives, the largest group returned by the voters, out in the cold and condemned to the minority opposition benches for five long years.

When the partnership was formed and after the top jobs were divvied up, the unlikely bedfellows heaped praise on each other, exuding an air of sweetness and light.

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish National Party Group, their leader John Mitchell said: "We are pleased to be part of the new Administration that will run Scottish Borders Council for the next five years. The SNP Group is committed to working hard with our Administration partners for the good of the Scottish Borders."

So how has Councillor Cook managed to work with Mr Mitchell and his colleagues for four years when he describes the SNP in his letter to the papers as "A party with a profoundly ugly disposition"?

His decision to publicly endorse the Conservative candidate in the constituency where he lives surely renders his position within that SBC Rainbow Alliance untenable. After all he's backing the Tories who have been and are his political 'enemies' in the council chamber.

Can Mr Mitchell and the other SNP "tapestry gallery sympathisers" continue to work hand in glove with an individual who clearly detests what their party stands for? Will the Nationalists withdraw from the administration? And should Mr Cook leave or be suspended from the Independent Party - whatever that is - before crossing the floor to sit on the council's Tory benches?

It must be time to end the use of 'Independent' as a political ticket and replace it with something more appropriate and meaningful. We suggest 'Non-Political' so that voters know exactly where candidates who wish to hide their political leanings stand. Anyone subsequently declaring allegiance to the SNP, Tories, Lib Dems, Labour, UKIP or Greens would then forfeit the right to use the 'Non-Political' designation with immediate effect.

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